The UCLA Bruin baseball team (15-5, 5-1 Pac-12) heads to Northern California for a three-game series starting tonight against the UC Berkeley Golden Bears (14-9, 1-5 Pac-12). First pitch is at 7 p.m. PT, from Evans Diamond. Tonight’s game will be Head Coach John Savage’s 800th in a UCLA uniform. Big tip of the cap to Coach Savage!
Both teams had only four losses heading into conference play, with UCLA sitting at 10-4 and Berkeley at 12-4. Since then, however, the Bears have been swept at home by Oregon State, the number one team in the country, and lost two of three against the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. Berkeley did beat UC Davis, 9-3, in a midweek game earlier this week.
The Bruins swept Washington State and took two of three from Arizona State, with both series in Westwood. This will be UCLA first true road series of the season. Despite their conference records, UCLA has by far had an easier go of things in conference play so far. While ASU and Oregon may end up being equal teams, there is no question that Oregon State, perhaps the best team in the country, is worlds better than Wazzou, currently last in the eleven-team Pac-12.
UC Berkeley is an offensive juggernaut. As a team, the Golden Bears are #16 in the nation in batting, hitting .308 as a team. They are led by sophomore Andrew Vaughn, who is hitting .468, third in the country. Vaughn also has 13 dingers, tops in the nation, and 33 RBI, tied for #11 in the nation. Bruin pitchers will be ready for this kid, but they cannot stop him, they can only hope to contain him (and hope that he comes to the plate without runners on base)!
It’s not just Vaughn though. Junior catcher Tyrus Greene is also hitting over .400, coming in at .414.
Berkeley’s pitching is a different story. Opponents are hitting .273 against them (by comparison, opponents are only hitting .216 against the Bruins). Only one pitcher who has started games for the Golden Bears this season has an ERA under 4.26, and that is Aaron Shortridge (1-1, 3.03 ERA), who is expected to start on Sunday. Three players who have started have ERA in the fours, one has an ERA over six.
Of course, when you are hitting and scoring runs like Berkeley, it doesn’t really matter. The kid with the ERA over six, Rogelio Reyes, has a record of 3-1 on the season! Yet, UCLA’s Jake Bird, with an ERA of 1.17, only has only two victories on the season. Funny game, that baseball.
Taking the hill for the Golden Bears tonight is Matt Ladrech (2-3, 4.97 ERA), a senior left hander.
Head coach John Savage’s UCLA baseball teams are known for two things: pitching and defense. The 2018 season is no different. The Bruins rank fifth in the nation in earned run average, with a team ERA of 2.41. The Bruins are 12 in the nation in fielding percentage, sitting at .982.
UCLA is doing pretty well at the plate too. Hitting .270 as a team, the Bruins feature seven everyday starters hitting .276 or better. Sophomore outfielder Jeremy Ydens has been a pleasant surprise this season, working his way into the Bruins everyday lineup and hitting a team leading .367.
Jake Bird (2-1, 1.17 ERA) gets the start tonight for UCLA. Last week, Jake had a no decision after allowing three runs (two earned) in seven innings. Jake started the game in fine fashion, forcing a ton of ground ball outs and keeping a clean sheet through six innings, but was hit pretty hard in the 7th. UCLA went on to win the ball game in the 10th inning.
There is no television for any games in this series. All games, however, are available via streaming video, via CAL LIVE STREAM (why, oh, why, can’t UCLA get a damn live stream?). You can also follow along with live audio with UCLA’s own Tim Wilhem, or check the status of things via StatBroadcast.
Keeping it short and sweet tonight. I predict that UCLA takes two of three. The matchup to watch is UC Berkeley’s bats versus UCLA’s arms. Good pitching usually beats good defense.
Enjoy the holiday weekend and . . . GO BRUINS!!!